Scientist charged over illegal steroid importation

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The Independent Online

Australia's Customs Service said today that a scientist from the New South Wales Academy of Sport has been charged over the importation of steroids over the Internet.

The service said that John Pryor will appear in court in Sydney on May 9 and charged with two counts of importing a prohibited drug. Pryor, 30, is from Byron Bay on the New South Wales state north coast.

A Customs spokesman confirmed the investigation involved a package containing the banned performance-enhancing steroid Dhea which was sent to the Narrabeen high-performance academy in suburban Sydney under the scientist's name.

Dhea, officially named dehydrohepiandrosterone, is a testosterone-based drug which is sold over the counter in the United States. But it is illegal in Australia and is on the International Olympic Committee's list of banned substances.

On April 14, Australian Opals basketballer Annie La Fleur denied any link with a package with the same drug which had been mailed to her home from the US.

La Fleur, a member of Australia's women's basketball squad for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, did not receive the Dhea because Australian Customs agents removed the substance before the parcel was forwarded to her home.

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Peter Ryan said that he believes organised crime is behind the increased importation of performance sports drugs.

"There's evidence of a role played by organised crime or major criminals in the sale of these substances," he said.

He said banned substances were likely to attract a criminal element but many of the substances were not illegal but prescribed drugs.

"I would rather leave enforcements as to whether these drugs should be used by athletes to the relevant international athletics body," Ryan said.